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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

28
THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM
CHAP
results, may be given the benefit of the doubt. Some excuse too may be found for the four or five millions he spent at Constantinople to secure the alteration of the Law of Succession in favour of his eldest son, and to rid Egypt of a few more of the restrictions which still limited her autonomy. But all this might have been done without the insensate borrowings which loaded Egypt with a heavy permanent debt and never even temporarily eased the taxpayer's shoulders.
For never even under her Mameluke slave-kings, who at least left some splendid monuments behind them to redeem their names from oblivion, nor under Mehemet Ali, who gave Egypt a new status in the world, did the Egyptian people groan under more pitiless oppression than under the vainglorious rule of Ismail, barren from beginning to end of all great achievement. A wild Nationalist, whom I met in Cairo, ventured to carry his disparagement of British control to the extreme length of telling me that I ought to have seen Egypt in the days of freedom and prosperity which she enjoyed under her own rulers before the British occupation. " Even," I inquired, " under Ismail ? " " Yes, even under Ismail," was his reply. I asked him politely how old he was, though it was evident he was too young to have seen Ismail's Egypt with his own eyes. I unfortunately was not too young, and I proceeded to describe to him what I had seen in the last years of Ismail's reign, when Egypt was " enjoying freedom and prosperity under one of her own rulers"; the half-starved fellaheen dragged away from their own fields to work on the huge estates which the Khedive and his favoured pashas had filched from them ; the forced labour of the corvee, under the ever-present menace of the whip, to keep the perennial canals running for the benefit of others ; the press-gangs employed to drive into the depots the army recruits who were too poor to buy exemption from what they regarded, too often rightly, as an irrevocable sentence of death in the far-away Sudan; the miserable mud villages frequentlyas were itsorrowed £11,000,000 abroad ande.   And on this occasion rumour was no lying jade.    In theament " to showWithin the first year of the Occupation